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The time I met the original cast of Dance Moms

When I was thirteen, dance was my life. My motto was literally Eat. Sleep. Dance. Repeat. I would go right from school to dance practice every single day. I would even eat dinner at the studio because there was no time to come home in between rehearsals.

When practice ended at 9:30 p.m. every day, I would just come home, shower and go straight to bed. Dance practice was *def* not easy. People who consider dance not to be a sport are flat-out wrong. How else could you explain the sweat dripping down my face at the end of every class?

Furthermore, I had dance competitions practically every single weekend. This might sound like a treacherous schedule, but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Practice was so fun for me because I loved running through the competition routines and spending time with my dance friends. We all went to different schools so practice and competitions were when I got to spend quality time with them.

My mom usually took me to the competitions because my dad had work, and he also had to stay back with my brother to take him to his own sports practice. It was the same dynamic for my friends, where their dads stayed back and watched their siblings, too. It was fun that way. It was like one big girls trip every week because we all stayed at a hotel together for the competitions.

All that bonding at dance competitions made us girls and our moms *super* close. It was like we had our own version of the actual Dance Moms show! Throughout those years, our tight-knit group couldn't stop watching—and talking about—the Lifetime show Dance Moms. To be honest, I'm not sure how obsessed our moms were with the show, but my friends and I were *super* obsessed. We watched it religiously, we literally never missed an episode. It was our dream to meet the girls and Abby Lee Miller (even though she scared us). 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Abby Lee Miller (@therealabbylee) on

One weekend that we surprisingly had no competition, my dance friends and I were all planning on sleeping in Saturday morning and hanging out later that day. But when I got home from school on Friday, my mom said she wanted to show me something in the kitchen. I was kind of scared because I had no idea what she was going to show me.

Then she pulled up an email confirmation to a Dance Moms meet and greet and master class with Abby Lee Miller and the girls. I was *so* shook. I didn't believe it was real—and my dance team friends were going, too! I called my friends and we were all screaming into the phone so beyond excited that our moms did this for us. We stayed up late FaceTimiing, packing our dance gear and figuring out what to wear to the event. We were all *so* nervous because we wanted to look like serious dancers when we met the ALDC (Abby Lee Dance Company) for the first time.


Image: Instagram.com/therealabbylee

Saturday morning, we all got up bright and early to beat traffic and get over to the meet and greet as fast as possible. I couldn't believe that I was actually driving to meet the ALDC, it felt like a dream come true. Once we all arrived and parked our cars my friends and I walked in together. The first thing we saw was a *huge* line outside the main door to the hotel where Abby and the girls were setting up. Waiting didn't bother us—we would've stayed there until midnight.

About half an hour later, we all finally checked in and made it inside the big ballroom where Abby was going to be teaching us a routine from a group number the girls did on the show. . The large number of dancers was definitely intimidating for me, especially because when I looked around I saw how professional a lot of the girls looked when they were warming up. To my left was a lengthy ballerina doing what looked like 60 turns on her toes, and to my right was a very flexible contortionist pulling her legs around her neck.

All these skilled dancers made me second-guess if I was good enough to be dancing in front of Abby. I was obviously excited about the amazing opportunity to learn from Abby Lee Miller, who had a first place winning streak at most of the well-known dance competitions in our region. However, I knew Abby's teaching style from the show, so I was afraid of Abby yelling at me in front of all the advanced dancers for doing something wrong.

 

After we learned the routine, Gianna Martello (Abby's assistant teacher) split us up into smaller groups so it would be easier for herself and Abby to critique us. I could feel my stomach sinking in as we were getting divided into our groups because of how scared I was to mess up in front of Abby or Gia.

I used the strategy my mom gave me for whenever I got nervous and took a few deep breaths before walking out onto the dance floor in front of everyone. When our group was done dancing, everyone,  including Abby and Gia gave us a massive round of applause and said we all did an excellent job. I was so proud of myself for not messing up a move in the routine and doing it so well with Maddie, Nia and Chloe watching me as well. My friends ran over and gave me a huge hug right after I was done.

When I watched each of them perform, I did the exact same thing to support them. My friend Grace was in the group afte rme, and when she was done Abby pointed to her and said: "What's your name, in the black sweatshirt?", Grace looked like a deer in headlights and quickly responded.

Abby went on to tell her how beautiful her turns and leaps looked in the routine. We all were fangirling so hard for Grace. It must've felt amazing getting compliments on her dancing technique from Abby Lee Miller. This really was turning out to be an amazing day for our whole squad.


Image: Instagram.com/therealabbylee

After the master class, my friends and I were still so shook that we danced in front of the Dance Moms girls, the day couldn't have been going better! The next thing on our agenda was the meet and greet where we were going to be taking photos and going to a Q&A sesh.

My friends and I quickly freshened up from the workout Abby put us through during the master class, and we headed over to the photo room. It was so fun to be able to take photos with the girls because they were definitely huge role models for us in the dance world. We got to take two photos—one with Abby and one with the girls!

After we got our photos, we went into another room where we got to ask the dancers and their moms questions about the show. We talked to Chloe and Christi, Nia and Holly, Maddie, Mackenzie and Melissa, and Kendall and Jill (otherwise known as most of the OGs). All of our moms were going crazy trying to get Christi's attention during the Q&A because Christi was one of the moms that fought a lot with Abby back in the earlier seasons of the show. They all were dying to know if her fighting with Abby was real or fake.

Christi finally pointed to my mom and laughed so hard when my mom asked her the question. She answered that yes, the fighting is real, and that nothing is staged on their show. All of us were a little skeptical. The Q&A was *so* fun because we got to hear everyone's questions about the show and what people were wondering about.

People were asking pretty juicy questions like, "Is Maddie really Abby's favorite?" My friends and I were all cringing so hard because of how awkward the cast of Dance Moms looked whenever someone asked them a heated question like that. We really felt like we were getting the true behind-the-scenes experience. 

I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon with my besties. It was an incredible day and I still love to look back on the photos and relive the ~memories~!

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by Hayley Miller | 8/18/2020
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